The Mark of the Beast
Has the message changed?
You’ve been preaching for nearly 50 years on a challenging concept Seventh-day Adventists colloquially refer to as “the mark of the beast.” If you had to summarize your experience of preaching about this Bible topic, what, if anything, would you say has changed in the way you introduce it? And are there essentials you are now underlining even more strongly?
I think my understanding of the topic has deepened over the years. Initially, I was very straightforward, very clear, in identifying the beast power of Revelation 13 as the Roman Catholic papacy. In my early evangelism, that was probably my primary focus on the subject. Although I in no way minimize the prophetic understanding we have as Bible-believing Christians, the issues to me today are much broader.
What are those broader issues?
The real significance of the mark of the beast in Bible prophecy is the larger context of a cosmic struggle in the universe between good and evil, and a battle over the issue of worship. The overarching theme of Revelation is Christ’s triumph over the principalities and powers of hell with a central focus on worshipping the Creator. Revelation 4:11 makes this point clear: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things” [KJV]. Throughout Revelation worship and creation are indissoubly linked. Revelation 14:7 calls us to worship the Lord of all creation. Once you focus on creation and worship, you zero in on the very heart, the essence, of this controversy between good and evil. The focus is on the God of all creation in contrast to Lucifer, who desired to usurp Christ’s authority as Creator.
Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ, as a co-eternal member of the Godhead, was the active agent in Creation (Eph. 3:9). Revelation’s final issue of worship centers on Jesus and His creative authority and power. The concept of Christ as Creator is at the very heart of Sabbath worship. Jesus consistently underlines the significance of the day of which He calls Himself “the Lord.” We see the Sabbath, then, in the context of a refuge in time that God has created through Jesus Christ to constantly remind us of our origins and His undying care. It is an oasis in the desert of this world. Against the backdrop of an evolutionary hypothesis that has taken the world by storm in the last two centuries, the Sabbath leads us to our roots. The Sabbath is an eternal reminder of our identity. It reminds us of who we are as human beings. It places worth on every human being. It constantly reenforces the idea that we are created beings and that our Creator is worthy of our allegiance and worship.
You’ve just traced a remarkable connection between a variety of major Bible truths—the cosmic conflict; the importance of true worship; the role of Jesus as Creator; and the enduring significance of the Sabbath. All of those are involved in understanding the mark of the beast?
When you fully understand the issues surrounding the mark of the beast, you comprehend something much larger than simply the identification of the beast power. You’re looking at this controversy between good and evil. You’re looking at the struggle between Christ and Satan over the issue of Creation. You’re looking at the value and dignity of human worth. If we simply evolved; if we’re just skin covering bones; if we’re merely an elaborated amoeba molecule; if we’re no more than a genetic accident—then human life has little value. So the Sabbath speaks about Creation. It speaks about my value in God eyes.
That’s an understanding that resonates with Millennials and Gen Xers. If I understand that God created me and fashioned me, He also created the environment of this planet. Sabbath calls me to care for my body, because if I’m going to worship the Creator, I want to respect the essence of that which He has created. It also causes me to be concerned about the environment of which we’re supposed to be good stewards. The Sabbath, which according to the Bible pre-dates all our divisions in races and ethnicities, is also a symbol of our common ancestry. At a time of strife between tribes and nations, Sabbath calls us to recognize that we share a common humanity.
You asked how my preaching is different now. As I preach on the subject of the mark of the beast, I’m clear in identifying who the beast is. But I’m also clear in looking at the larger issues in the controversy between good and evil, where the devil attacks the very creative authority of God, tries to destroy our humanity, and tries to destroy our consensus of who we are in Christ. The Sabbath is this refuge. I preach the Sabbath as a symbol, not of legalism or works, but of faith: every Sabbath we rest in Christ. We rest in His love and we rest in His care. And if one meaning of the word antichrist is “another Christ,” a substitute Christ, then human works through the antichrist power substitute something else for the God-given Sabbath.
You’ve just connected Sabbath and the understanding of righteousness by faith.
Here’s my contention: Sabbath is the symbol of righteousness by faith, and Sunday is the symbol of righteousness by works. How so? Because in Sabbath, I rest in the Christ who died on Calvary’s cross for me. I acknowledge my absolute inability to save myself, and the absolute all-sufficiency of Christ’s grace. Every Sabbath I say, “Jesus, You made me. You created me. You died for me. I’m resting in Your love and care.”
Why is Sunday—the invention of the beast power—a symbol of righteousness by works? Because if during a period of church/state compromise the Sabbath was changed by human religio-political leaders, then to accept Sunday is to accept a human work contrary to a divine command. And any time I substitute a human work for a divine command, it’s as if I’m bringing Cain’s offering yet again. Cain offered his own assessment of what he believed the command required. That’s why you can’t discuss the mark of the beast outside of the context of Sabbath, outside of the context of the larger issue of the conflict between good and evil.
Sabbath is first a call to identity in Christ, a call to our roots in Creation, a refuge in time. I see it as a call to respect our bodies and the environment. I see it as resting in Jesus from our works to accept His work on the cross. And I see it as looking forward to new heavens and a new earth that will be re-created as He created them in the first place.
And there’s one more highly personal aspect. If God can create the Sabbath—if God can create the world, and the Sabbath is a memorial of that creation—then He can re-create my heart. So the Sabbath is a symbol of His sanctifying power, of what He can do to transform me! For those struggling in the bondage and chains of sin, humanism doesn’t help, but the gospel does. And at the heart of the Sabbath is the gospel.
So the quick identification of the mark of the beast as being only about the historical phenomenon of the Roman Catholic papacy and its expression of Sunday worship is in some sense not extensive enough to understand the bigger issues?
It’s certainly not wrong, but it’s limited. If I preach only that the beast power is the papacy, the question remains: Why? Why is the beast power the papacy? And the reason for that is because a human religious system has substituted its authority for the authority of Christ. A human religious system has changed the very heart of God’s law. With the changing of that law we destroy one of the most precious gifts God ever gave to humans—the Sabbath rest.
Mark Finley: Educated by Priests and Nuns?
Seventh-day Adventists, along with Christians everywhere, see the atonement of Christ as the central focus of our faith. Are you saying that the mark of the beast, with its substituted day of worship, is offering a different kind of atonement?
I am. And let me even develop this a little further. I was raised in a Catholic home, educated for the first eight years of my life by priests and nuns. I have a great appreciation for those of that background—their sincerity, their genuineness. As I began to understand these prophecies, though, it was obvious to me that there had been wide departure in that tradition from the essence of the gospel in its fullest understanding, from biblical truth, and from the issues of worship. In the Roman Catholic papacy, as distinct from the many faithful and devoted members of that faith, we see a human religious system that has departed from the simplicity of the gospel, from the clarity of biblical truth, and from the very essence of worship, which is the Sabbath. The external trappings of religion—incense, candles, and statues—have been substituted for the very essence of religion.
Seventh-day Adventists have a unique understanding of the heavenly sanctuary. We believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was full and complete. The atonement He provided on the cross, however, is applied to individual lives through His intercession in the heavenly sanctuary. We need a sacrifice—Jesus. We need a priest—Jesus. Earthly priests can never substitute for the divine Priest. The earthly sacrifice of the mass can never substitute for the atonement provided by Christ. By faith we see the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus ministers. Our eyes aren’t focused on an earthly sanctuary with its incense, its candles, its priests, and its sacrifice of the mass, because we’re focused on heaven. All of this is the vital background to understanding Revelation 13. If you don’t get this right, and you just do the historical identification of the beast power, you miss the essence of what God is saying to you.
And it gets even more personal: any time my human ego and my human pride govern my behavior, the beast power is in me.
You’re disagreeing, then, with those who critique the Adventist understanding of the mark of the beast as simply an expression of nineteenth-century American anti-Catholicism?
Yes: they miss the point totally. Does Revelation 13 clearly identify the papal powers? Sure. And it’s an exact parallel to Daniel 7.
Martin Luther, with the other great Protestant reformers, identifies the beast power and the antichrist power as the Roman papacy. And you can go back earlier than that to find courageous voices throughout Christian history who have made the same identification. This isn’t some nineteenth-century theological innovation that Seventh-day Adventists made up. This is the historic chain of truth taught and manifested in the Protestant Reformation.
You’re saying that maintaining our historic identification of the mark of the beast is an expression of remaining truly Protestant?
It is. And when you look, for example, at the comparison between Daniel and Revelation, you see in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 the great parallels. Adventists are on solid biblical ground when they identify the beast power as the papacy and stand with many of the Protestant reformers. When we describe how the beast power would rise out of the Roman Empire; that it would be a worldwide religious power that would persecute the people of God down through the ages—the Middle Ages—by the uniting of church and state; that it would reign, according to Revelation 12:6 and onward, for 42 months, or 1260 years, we’re underlining what Scripture underlines. When you look at those biblical markers, those identifications, you can clearly see what power did those things. Is prophecy really so mystical? Is it so elusive that you can’t identify its central characters? There’s no question in my mind at all that Revelation 13 identifies the Roman Catholic papacy, and that the little horn in Daniel 7 is the same power.
Some might ask: “Sure, it’s true. But is it important today?”
The urgent question is, “Why does God give us these clear identifying signs?” What’s the significance? Is it just to reveal the identity of that persecuting power? Not at all. It’s to deal with these larger issues in the controversy between good and evil. It’s to lead us back to true worship.
It’s interesting that Ellen White defines the antithesis, or the opposite, of the mark of the beast as the seal of God. And she defines the seal of God as “a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved.” 1 The Sabbath, as God’s identifiable day of worship, becomes the visible symbol of that seal. Ephesians 4:30 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The Holy Spirit becomes the sealing agency that settles us into a commitment to Christ and a commitment to His truth so that we cannot be moved. We dare not slip into an acceptance of human teachings or theories substituted for the Word of God. Sabbath and Sunday become the visible points of a climactic struggle at the end time between good and evil over worship.
Novel Ideas About the Mark of the Beast
There are dozens—maybe hundreds—of theories available on the Internet about the identification of the mark of the beast. In your many years of public evangelism, you’ve undoubtedly heard some of the more exotic ideas. Which ones do you remember as most unusual?
Well, that Adolf Hitler’s regime was the mark of the beast.
Yes, some have said that. Others have taken U.S. presidents’ names and arrived at novel formulations. But one of the funniest was in Russia when I was preaching at the Olympic Stadium in the early 1990s. As I got up to preach, women came up out of the audience—because we had baptized about 1,000 or 1,500 people—to bring me flowers. As I reached down to pick up these flowers, a woman walked down the aisle and grabbed the microphone out of my hands. She then said, “This man is the mark of the beast! This man is the antichrist! Attack now!” About 20 young people rushed the stage. This woman was at that time the leading cult figure in Russia, and for some reason she saw me as the antichrist.
So these young people ran to attack me. Fortunately, I had baptized several KGB officers and Russian soldiers, and they hadn’t forgotten their skills. They took care of the disturbance. That happened 14 nights in a row!
You’ve probably heard people express the idea that the mark of the beast is a visible mark or a tiny injectable cartridge.
Yes, and of course, national ID cards.
What do you say to someone who is sure that what they’ve heard somewhere else is correct, someone who’s looking for something visible, tangible—maybe even injectable?
I say to them, “I don’t know how the mark of the beast will be enforced. There may be different ways of enforcement. The Bible doesn’t tell us.” And then I say to them, “Did you notice in the text that it says the mark of the beast is enforced in the forehead or in the hand? But the seal of God is only in the forehead? Do you think that we’ll have a tattoo on our forehead that says, ‘seal of God’?” They invariably say, “No, I don’t.” Then I ask, “Why is the mark of the beast in the forehead or in the hand? The reason is this. The devil doesn’t care whether he convinces you intellectually to follow the beast or whether he forces or coerces you to follow with the symbol of the hand. God never uses force or coercion. He only uses choice.”
This issue, then, is also about free will—God’s gift of choice.
Exactly! God has given us freedom of choice. I don’t know how the devil’s going to enforce the mark of the beast. There may be some identity card; we don’t know that. But the big issue is what’s going on in your mind—the battle between good and evil. We shouldn’t argue over points that we might not have light on, and that aren’t the heart of the issue. I shift the conversation to what’s going on in the hearer’s mind and appeal to them to be so strong in Christ that nobody can force or coerce them. If they are teenagers, I talk with them about group pressure, about how it’s so easy to be pressured by friends to use drugs, to get involved in the alcohol scene. And I remind them that the ultimate reception of the mark of the beast is going to be by those who have compromised their integrity by the choices they’ve made.
Coercion can come from more than just a government?
Absolutely. If you’re compromising your integrity at a party, or feel pushed into an illicit relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend outside of marriage, what are you going to do when the mark of the beast comes and says you can’t buy or sell? There’s a fundamental issue of the human heart at work here. The issue regarding the mark of the beast is really a question of whom I trust. Have I completely, absolutely, given my life to Jesus in trust?
I hear you saying that simplistic interpretations of the mark of the beast—what it is and how it will arrive—don’t always serve us well. You’re calling for keeping the biblical identifying markers along with emphasizing the individual’s personal moral choices.
Let me make it very plain. After studying and preaching this Bible truth for 50 years, I don’t have one doubt about the prophetic interpretation understood by Seventh-day Adventists. I believe it and I preach it. But merely preaching dates and identification doesn’t transform people within. It may change the intellect; it may somewhat change the thinking. But what I’m going after is the fundamental essence of what it means to change the heart.
Preaching “Jesus Only”: Is That the Full Message?
Have you known some newly baptized Adventists through the years who had their intellectual understanding of these issues changed, but still lacked an understanding of true worship—who came “into the truth” but not to the gospel?
They changed their day of worship, but their hearts weren’t changed. Fortunately, that’s not true of many, but I’ve seen it happen.Perhaps more troubling to me today is what we might callthe opposite response—persons who say, “Oh, I’m going to preach Jesus, but I’m going to leave out the prophetic aspect. I’m going to preach Jesus, but I’m going to get away from ‘this old mentality.’” There’s no dichotomy between Jesus and a correct understanding of biblical prophecy. There’s no separation between Christ and doctrine. To accept Christ is to accept the teachings of Christ. When I accept Jesus, I accept Jesus’ teachings. And according to Revelation 1:1, the Bible’s last book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” [KJV].2 So the revelation of Jesus is given to us by a loving God who wants us to know the future, wants us to understand that this world is going to face a crisis with the mark of the beast. There will be a conflict regarding worship: how do we prepare for that? The living Christ must change our lives and strengthen us for the journey ahead.
There are multiple YouTube videos and Web sites just now critical of the Adventist Church for not underlining the mark of the beast as some would want it expressed. What do you say to that Seventh-day Adventist or other Christian who thinks that talking about the mark of the beast in the context of the gospel is somehow going “soft” on truth?
If your understanding of the mark of the beast makes you angry, something’s wrong. If your understanding of the mark of the beast makes you angry at Roman Catholics, angry at church administration, angry at the people who don’t preach it like you think they ought to, then you need to reexamine your heart. Your understanding of the mark of the beast should give you a passion to reach lost people with the gospel of Christ and with the prophetic, unique message of the three angels to prepare the world for our Lord’s soon return. If only the people who are spending time and energy producing videos to attack the Adventist Church and its leadership would get on their knees and say, “Jesus, give me my city; Jesus, give me my neighbors.” If my understanding of prophecy doesn’t make me a more loving, kind, compassionate Christian—then I should reevaluate my understanding.
What’s the bottom line of the book of Revelation? Revelation 1 identifies Jesus as Redeemer, the divine Son of God, and the One who is coming again. Revelation 1 puts forward a Christ who “tabernacled” in flesh, a Christ who came to die, a Christ who is living again and is “alive for evermore” [verse 18, KJV]. The total ministry of Christ is outlined in Revelation 1. Then you have the seven churches of Revelation 1-3. They end with Laodicea, the judgment, and the coming of Christ. Then you have two chapters, Revelation 4 and 5, that deal with worship in heaven and establish Christ as both Creator and Redeemer. Next come the seven seals. They too climax with the victory of Christ. These are followed by the seven trumpets. They end again with the victory of Christ. Then you go to Revelation 12, which covers the battle down through the ages and ends again with the victory of Christ. Then you go to Revelation 13 and 14, which end with the harvest and victory of Christ. Then you go to the introduction of the seven last plagues, Revelation 15 and 16. They, too, end with the victory of Christ. Then you go to the figure of Babylon, Revelation 17 and 18, and it ends again with the victory of Christ. Then you go to chapters 19 and 20—the victory of Christ. Chapters 21 and 22—the victory of Christ. There’s one theme in every prophetic vision through Revelation, and that’s the wonderful truth that Jesus wins and Satan loses. That’s the theme. Jesus is going to win; Satan is going to lose.
When you present the prophecies of Revelation, if your major focus is on the beasts and mystic images and cryptic symbols, and it’s not on the Christ who is victorious, you’ve missed the mark of Revelation!It’s like Jesus said: “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” [Matt. 23:23, KJV]. It’s not enough to warn people what the mark of the beast is. It is vital to introduce them to the Lamb of God. The real issue is a false gospel that substitutes for the genuine, authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.
America in Prophecy
I know you have many friends outside of this movement. What do you say to those who aren’t members of this faith who ask, “How do we know this is a real threat in our time?” What do you see in 2018 that persuades you that it’s somehow more urgent to know this now than when you began preaching 50 years ago?
I see the Roman papacy gaining in authority, power, and influence around the world. The pope was warmly welcomed at the United Nations: in 2015, he toured the United States and was allowed an unprecedented opportunity to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Kings, political leaders, and presidents visit him regularly at the Vatican. From its external appearances, the papacy seems to be softening its image to accommodate the heterodoxy of our age. We’re in an age in which the world is looking for moral leadership. Across the political scene today, I see the world crying out for moral leadership.
Some people say that it’s hard to number the world’s major moral leaders on more than one hand.
And they’re right. So where today do you find moral leadership? Where do you find somebody you can look to and say, “Where is there someone who is morally fit to lead the world? Who has the ethical respect to emerge as the world’s leader?” And if you want to bring the world together today—a world fragmented by ethnic tensions and racism, governments that don’t trust one another, and even allies that don’t trust one another—the question becomes, “Where is there a moral voice in the world that could rise to bring people together?”
How do I see the Roman Catholic papacy rising? In a world of instability and uncertainty; a world of rising hunger and increasing poverty; a world of environmental disaster and a growing threat from nuclear weaponry, the scene is being set to identify the Roman pontiff as the purported moral leader for everyone. It would be easy—very easy—if there were an economic collapse; if there were natural disasters; if there were a limited nuclear strike—for the pontiff to be the one whom the world invites to bring everyone together.
Seventh-day Adventists, along with some other Protestants, have historically identified the “lamblike beast” of Revelation 13 that cooperates with the beast power as the United States. Together, they become persecuting powers that restrict freedom of conscience and enforce a worship symbolized by a false day. What do you say to that student of prophecy who claims, “America is losing its superpower status, so our interpretation must be wrong”?
First, I think you never back into prophecy. People back into prophecy by saying, “What I see in the world—in China and Russia rising and America losing its position—means that America’s role in prophecy can’t be what we’ve claimed.” You don’t interpret Revelation 13 through the eyes of current political events. You interpret current political events in the context of Revelation 13. The first thing you have to ask, biblically, is whether Revelation 13 in its identification of the lamblike beast as the United States is a solid biblical interpretation? I believe it is. The second beast comes up “out of the earth,” an unpopulated area. He arises in the same historical era when the first beast was going into captivity—1798—at the end of the 1260-year prophecy. So the time is right, and the place is right. This second beast is lamblike—with two horns, like a lamb: a republican and democratic form of government. With those clear identifiers, only one nation in the world could be in view—the United States—which emerged with exactly these characteristics at just the right moment in world history.
The perceived loss of American influence in the world today is a temporary phenomenon. America is still the world’s leading nation in so many areas. At a moment of great international tension, or economic stress, or overwhelming natural disasters, populations seek stability and turn to their traditional leaders, which means they will almost certainly reaffirm America’s influence. The Bible doesn’t give us all the information regarding how that’s going to happen. But it lets us know that it will.
When I was a young man, people said to me, “Because we have a Roman Catholic president in John Kennedy, the mark of the beast will soon be enforced.” That’s a misunderstanding of Bible prophecy. Revelation 13:14 says, “They should make an image to the beast” [KJV]. Ellen White in commenting on the “they” says that this is one of the greatest evidences that the lamblike beast represents the United States with its democratic institutions.The plural “they” comes from “the people.” And then she says, “Even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance.”2 So it’s not that the law enforcing Sunday observance—the mark of the beast—emerges from an autocratic leader at the top; rather, it comes from the bottom up—from those who seek the votes of anguished or distressed people at a time when the economy is falling apart, or there’s been famine, fire, flood, or earthquake. Ellen White predicts that in the end time that is coming, the populous cities will be reduced to ruin. So what you have is a chaotic situation, and ordinary citizens will be the ones demanding their government do something—that they address the crisis in moral terms. At times of crisis, events move rapidly and with little regard for previous precedent.
Many interpreters of prophecy have assumed that the demand for a unified day of worship would come from those they describe as the “religious right,” those concerned with reestablishing moral values in American society. Could an increasingly secular America ask for the same thing?
There’s something that unites all peoples. Let me give you an example. After the mass shooting at the concert in Las Vegas, where multiple people were killed by a gunman, it wasn’t only religious people who came to the vigil. Scores of secular people came as well. Catholics came; Protestants came; atheists came. Why? Because a crisis brought people together into a common moment of shared experience. If I’m walking along the Hudson River with two atheists, two Jews, and three Muslims, and I see a woman fall into the water with her baby, we don’t ask, “What religion are you?” We go in and save that woman! So, if society’s falling apart, and anything—anything—can bring it together, alliances can potentially form out of necessity where we didn’t expect them. I don’t see a national Sunday law mandating that “everybody has to worship under the Roman papacy.” I expect that Baptists will still be Baptists; Methodists will still be Methodists; Catholics will still be Catholics; and secular people don’t have to become believers to give their approval to a measure that seems to offer hope in a crumbling society.
Adherents of other major world religions don’t have to become Christians to affirm and even support the observance of Sunday . Muslims and Hindus may say, “Look, for the betterment of the world, for the betterment of society, we accept Sunday as this socio-political, religious enactment.”
But what will Seventh-day Adventists be saying at that critical moment? “We can’t go along, because we believe in the integrity of the Word of God. We believe in the authority of the Bible. We accept the moral foundations of God’s law. We accept the Bible Sabbath.”
How quickly do you think these developments will occur—even if pushed along by some natural or man-made catastrophe?
I think the mark of the beast will be formed gradually. When I read The Great Controversy, I find that you initially could have a decree that commands people not to work on Sunday. Then, later, “If you work on Sunday, you’ll face these economic penalties.” Then when worship on Sabbath is antithesis to what they want to accomplish, authorities say, “You’re not cooperating to build up the social order.” It’s very interesting when you look at the history of the change of the Sabbath under Emperor Constantine in AD 321. His decree didn’t say anything about worship. It mandated, “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”3So it began as a social day to bring all the Roman Empire together, to unite it. Church leaders accepted this compromise. Pagans and Christians were agreed on its social value to society as a whole.
They bought their peace. But it evolved into something much more.
That’s right. I see the national Sunday law as not just happening overnight. I see a lot of debates taking place. I think that’s all part of God’s plan, because it sensitizes people—and it enables us to proclaim God’s truth in a critical moment. Enforcement may begin with fines, initially; then later imprisonment; then not being able to buy or sell; and, ultimately, the climax: a death decree for those who refuse the perceived social good of a common day of rest and worship.
These sound like dramatic events, and, of course, they are. But there’s an internal logic in Seventh-day Adventist interpretation of prophecy that grew out of the book of Daniel and applied its principles to the prophecies of Revelation.
If you deny the beast power as the Roman Catholic papacy, you have a real challenge with accepting the Protestant Reformers, for they were clear in their identification. But there are other major problems as well. Seventh-day Adventists accept the prophetic ministry of Ellen White, and she wrote extensively on this topic. If you deny the identification of the Roman papacy as the beast power of Revelation 13, and if you deny the United States as the lamblike beast of the same chapter, how then do you interpret The Great Controversy and Ellen White, which are so clear on it? You end by denying the prophetic gift and reducing the inspired writings of Ellen White to those of a helpful devotional writer.
You’re underlining the interconnectedness of Adventist beliefs again.
If, as some claim, there’s no real conflict over the law of God; if there’s no eschatological conflict over the commandments; if there’s no issue over worshipping the Creator, then where do Adventists find themselves with the Sabbath? Ellen White says to Seventh-day Adventists, “Separate the Sabbath from the messages, and it loses its power.” 4
Do you see any political or legislative developments on the near horizon that cause you to believe that a national law requiring rest on Sunday is imminent?
Those I talk to who are knowledgeable in our Religious Liberty department tell me they don’t see any specific legislation currently in the United States Congress precipitating a national Sunday Law. There are, though, a number of troubling current issues that seem to be eroding the wall of separation between church and state. Now, that doesn’t mean that our religious freedoms could not evaporate quickly. Obviously there will be a prolonged legislative debate over these issues so that everone can search the scriptures for themselves and be informed of the issues. But I think we are on safer ground as Seventh-day Adventists to simply say, “Here’s what the Bible teaches. These are the facts of history.” We can appeal to honest-hearted people based on what Scripture teaches, not on a piece of legislation currently before Congress, or a case being argued before the Supreme Court.
What would you say to those who have made it an article of faith to be matching up a short timeline of current political events with biblical prophecy?
The longest time prophecy of the Bible ran out in 1844, so earnest people who are obsessed with “time” are looking in the wrong place. What God is looking for now is the preparation of a people who understand the gospel , whose lives have been changed by the gospel, to reveal to the world the glory of God. I say to my brothers and sisters whose minds are fixated on time, “Switch your emphasis to the heart. Look at what Jesus wants to do in your life. And look at what Christ wants to do for you: to take away our coldness and our cynicism, to take away our criticism and our gossip, our lust, and our materialism.”
Time prophecies are important, but there is something more important: knowing Jesus and His life-transforming power. Now is the time to prepare a people for the coming of Jesus who are in love with Him and in love with His gospel.
- Ellen G. White, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Hagerstown, Md.: Reivew and Herald Pub. Assn., 1955, 1977), vol. 4, p. 1161.
- Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1950), p. 592.
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Vol. II: From Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great A.D. 311–600 (New York: Charles Scribner, 1867) p. 380, note 1.
- Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 1, p. 337.